Rousham Roberts – Llandrindod Wells
Rousham Roberts is not a walkie firm I’ve ever seen any examples by. They came to our notice through a display in the museum at Llandrindod Wells, a small one-time spa town on the eastern Welsh border. The firm was established sometime in the 1880s by Thomas Roberts, who had a mobile studio at Five Ways near the park. With a lot of tourists and people visiting to enjoy the Spa, there were plenty of customers and the business was continued by Thomas’s son Henry, and grandson, the grandly named Percival Quatermaine Rousham-Roberts. Based later on Temple Street in town, like many other studios, Percy himself began taking walkies, often stood outside the Midland Bank. The town’s lake was another favourite spot for taking walkies, and the firm would also snap groups of people in the motorboats on the lake.
A surviving ticket from the 1930s explains that the firm “have just had the favour of photographing a Candid Snap of You” and that it would be ready to view at 9.30 am the following day.
By the late 1940s the firm had moved to the Premier Studio and were handing their potential customers a large (around A5) ‘ticket’, telling people where to go to view the walkies. Alternately you could pay the cameraman there and then, or send off for the pictures by post. Each ticket was individually numbered to help identify the images, although the cards ask people to fill in the information “We were … Men … Ladies …. Children” (as well as asking people not to litter the street with the cards!). Prices had gone up from 6d before the war to 1/6d for the smallest size print, though bigger versions were offered.
It’s possible the firm did not mark the actual walkies, which is why examples are hard to find. When the firm closed after Percy’s death in 1990 he left them all his surviving prints. These were mostly of local events and people, rather than the run of the mill walkie, although one box of photos does show local dignitaries strolling up for a local event at the Hotel Commodore.
I’m always a fan of small local museums, surviving often in the face of indifference and funding shortages, and can recommend the Llandrindod Wells museum and gallery. The curator kindly allowed me to photograph the displays and look at some of the many boxes of photographs. Frustratingly the surviving box of walkies were all printed on lustre surface paper, which is extremely difficult to copy or scan (and the negatives appear not to have survived), but you get an idea of the images from the shot here.
Thanks also to Jane Audas who spotted the display and let me know about it.